BY D.R. Miller
Drugs, Disparity, and the Untold Stories
Shortly after the U.S. born Oscar-winner, Phillip Seymour Hoffman died in February 2014 from what is believed to be a heroin overdose. Many supports gathered at his residence and on television and mourned his sudden death. “How could this happen?” they asked.
These were some of the stories mentioned shortly after he died.
• We lost an Icon:
• The movies will never be the same
• One of the best ever walked the stage
• A great lost for the Industry
• Where are the drug dealers
In the initial media report, it appeared as if he gunned down in and robbed in the process.
Two years earlier, February 2012, the country also lost another superstar, Whitney Houston in the entertainment industry. “She was one of the best singer worldwide,” Clive Davis, an America record producer and music industry executive, and her mentor stated.
Although not all comments were negative, these were some of the stories mentioned shortly after she died.
• We knew it was coming
• This was based on the life she lived
• We tried to save her, but no one tells her what to do
• She refused treatment
• It was only a matter of time.
During the initial reports by some pundits, it seemed she died in a shoot-out as an active member of a gang.
What is consistent is that both of their stories have a drug purity tone that once stood on a drug paraphernalia scale. However, it seems when it comes to the use of illegal substances in the industry, some tend to overlook what I believe to be an “untold story,” where dealers, users, the criminal justice system and the media only have a view that is tilted in ounces along cultural, racial, and socio-economic status.
The interpretation drug afflicting wounds in our society often seems one-sided. Moreover, as society mourn premature deaths in the U.S. from substance abuse, the U.S. is not alone facing these problems. Less than 200 miles from some of it coast lines, the Caribbean Islands routes are not just hubs for trafficking. Many high potent drugs are making a landfall like a hurricane. They are attacking hillsides, small parishes beautiful rivers, and along the white sands and blue waters as recent studies have shown heroin and other hard-core drugs are on the rise where many like to relax.
Since independence from colonialism, economically many of these islands are struggling to combat substance abuse problems. It seems the pride that roars like the ocean gushing at the shores makes mentioning of a substance abuse issues other than marijuana rejected immediately and scorned as a taboo. The lack of awareness such as during the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980, it was viewed as only a gay issue until several family died from the disease.
Addiction has no specific genres of music. Moreover, several songs have been recorded in support for continuous use of marijuana. We cannot blame it only on Bob Marley’s embrace of marijuana through his music or few Rock & Roll stars who are associates with crack, cocaine and heroin.
Today, society has a new attitude towards marijuana. Several States in the U.S. have passed laws for limited medical purposes and legalization. In the Caribbean, some lawmakers have begun to review marijuana policies, and whether to make it legal, or reduce the criminal elements for small possessions. However, it should not be used as a gateway to build credibility to import other substances.
Many entertainers have been arrested on drug charges. Example: Buju Banton received a 10-year sentence after he was convicted for Cocaine trafficking. Sean Paul, Reggae Festival in Sweden one weekend in August 2008. Recently, Andrew Davis, aka Flippa Mafia, and previously Denroy Morgan. Many others in the industry have had court appearances as both a sellers and users. “What role have they played in this drug epidemic?”
However, one cannot discount the debate surrounding disparities in sentencing laws in the U.S., when it comes to black and other minorities convicted on drug charges. On the other hand, parts of the Caribbean often justice can be bought-off and less debate about disparity.
When an entertainer is under the influence of drugs, especially in the Caribbean region, one assumes it is marijuana. Since a urinalysis reports is not available to confirm what type of drug(s) used. However, most counselors, treatment providers, and in law enforcement have an understanding when one is under the influence and a treatment modality might be needed.
Notwithstanding, the new push to relax drug related laws low level users, society still has to be informed that any exposure to marijuana at an early age can become a gateway to more drugs such as heroin, opiates, crack, cocaine, PCP, LSD and prescription drugs.
Many stars before Whitney and Phillip died from drug use: Jimi Hendricks used LSD, marijuana, speed and sleeping pills. The report stated that he died from asphyxiation by his own vomit while sleeping under the influence. Other such as Michael Jackson, James Belushi had issues with drugs.
Reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs just to name a few had issues with substance abuse before his death. Sadly, the taboo still lingers in the region like be top secret.
After Phillips Hoffman’s death, law enforcement took a relentless manhunt to capture the individuals or terrorist who sold him the drugs based on the amount of attention they received.
The last report I read, few were arrested. However, Phillip had already used some of the evidence, and prosecution will be hard. What happen to Whitney’s drug dealers and many others who are still roaming streets both in the U.S. and throughout the Caribbean?
Taking drug dealers off the streets and beaches are always good for community safety. It reduces crime in general, and overall promotes healthier life style. Equally important, what happen when the names are less known?
Far too often, our society only look for changes when it becomes personal The dealers who sold poor people crack, Cocaine, PCP and Heroin and other illegal substances still lives in the same buildings, along the beaches, and are posted back stage at concerts. Fortunately, some celebrities have been rehabilitated, but we must treat addicts, as they are, just that, and not based on their socioeconomic status and body of work. An Oscar or a Grammy or amount of money one has in the bank cannot save an addict.
Glen R. Hanson, Ph.D., D.D.S., former Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIH) U.S. once provided testimony in 2002. He noted, “Cocaine or Crack in any form produces the same physiological and psychological effects once it reaches the brain.”
Drug use cuts across all color line.
Dr. Hanson further provided an in-depth analysis: a drug user snorting powder cocaine begins to feel the high within 3-5 minutes, the blood level peaks at 10-20 minutes, and fades within 45-60 minutes. Intravenous use, or injection – for which powder cocaine is also used – results in a cocaine “rush” within 30-45 seconds and the drug’s effects last for 10-20 minutes. Inhalation, or smoking – i.e., using crack – produces the quickest and highest peak blood levels in the brain. The user experiences the “high” within only 8-10 seconds. There is no difference based on one’s race:
As (marijuana) push reaches an all-time high, we cannot tilt the scale when it comes to the crack, heroin and cocaine and other illegal substances being used as if it is not dismantling our communities. There are plenty of addicts brazing stages, and the only start to rehabilitation is to take personal responsibility. Imagine how many concerts would have been cancelled if we were to conduct a drug test screening before several artists perform. I am hoping one-day new laws can prohibit one from being under the influence before he or she can perform.
Addiction and drug related death or even sentencing should not be polarized by race, religion belief, ideology, or social and economic status. Let us continue to watch movies, dance and celebrate the arts together from Aruba to the U.S. and worldwide.
When these entertainers in our communities needs help, promoters, managers, and publicists must take responsibility to develop treatment plans before it is too late. Sometimes their estates generate more money after death, but an anticipated new album or movie is priceless.
Copyright© This article is held by Derrick Miller and its reproduction or republication by any media or transmission by radio or television without his prior written permission is prohibited. Republished with permission.